I recently published predictions for the Top 30 Free Agents of this MLB offseason. Free agency dominates the MLB news cycle from November through January but is only one component to Hot Stove Season; we can’t leave out the trades! Honestly, trades are more fun than signings even if they’re inherently harder to predict. I’m not sure if ANY of these trades will go down in the coming weeks but each of them are logical enough to transpire. Did I leave some glaring team holes open in my Free Agents piece? Yeah, but every team doesn’t get every free agent that they want. Treat this like a companion to that piece, with teams hitting the trade market to further flesh out their rosters. Unlike that post though, here I’ll write less about player qualifications and more about the impact for both teams in the trades.
Trade simulations are sourced from BaseballTradeValues.com. It’s an imperfect science but nonetheless an accurate method and a good verification system.
Blue Jays Get: Shane Bieber
Guardians Get: Danny Jansen, Ricky Tiedemann, Cade Doughty
Angels Get: Amed Rosario
Guardians Get: Jose Quijada
Looping the two Guardians proposals into one summary, and I’ll be real in that I’m somewhat confident that a version of that blockbuster will occur in reality. It’s the Cleveland way to trade star pitchers on the cusp of reaching free agency: CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, etc. And guess what? Cleveland usually wins these trades in the end, even if it would suck to deal a Cy Young winner in Bieber at 27 years old and coming off another excellent season. With Triston McKenzie ready to assume the ace role for the Guardians, I do expect Bieber to get traded this winter and Toronto is the perfect destination. The Blue Jays have arguably 3 of the 10 most valuable catchers in baseball in Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen and Gabriel Moreno. Bieber for Moreno straight-up is a fascinating trade concept, but I think he’s too elite of a prospect to trade and Cleveland already has a great catcher prospect they purportedly love in Bo Naylor. It makes most sense for Jansen, the veteran with two more years of control, to go back to Cleveland. Tiedemann is probably the Jays’ best prospect (No. 33 overall on MLB Pipeline) and would join what’s truly becoming a laughable stockpile of young pitching talent for the Guardians.
Even if Toronto had a disappointing season in 2022 relative to their lofty preseason expectations, they still won 92 games and possess one of the more loaded rosters in MLB. The lineup speaks for itself, they have reinforced the bullpen in a major way since the last trade deadline, and look at this potential rotation:
- Shane Bieber
- Kevin Gausman
- Alek Manoah
- Jose Berrios
- Mitch White
- Yusei Kikuchi
Yeah, not too shabby and all locked down through 2024. As for the Rosario trade, it’s probably the most deserving of a “who cares?” label among the dozen in this blog, but I want to include it for a couple of reasons. Rosario has turned into a solid player since the Mets gave up on him and he is – by far – the best one-year-only shortstop option on the trade market. The Angels need to go as all-in on 2023 as responsibly a 73-89 team can with Shohei Ohtani going into his last season in Anaheim, and Rosario could play 162 games for them. Cleveland would be sad to see him go, but he’s due roughly $9mil in arbitration in this contract year and the Guardians have multiple middle infield prospects near the big league level. With these trades – in addition to my calls for Cleveland to use this freed-up money to sign Josh Bell and Corey Kluber – look below where it would leave the Guardians’ projected lineup and rotation for 2023. This is on top of them having the best farm system AND bullpen in baseball – especially with lefty Jose Quijada coming over in return for Rosario.
- Steven Kwan (7)
- Jose Ramirez (5)
- Josh Bell (3)
- Josh Naylor (DH)
- Oscar Gonzalez (9)
- Andres Gimenez (4)
- Danny Jansen (2)
- Brayan Rocchio (6) (No. 69 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline)
- Myles Straw (8)
- Triston McKenzie
- Cal Quantrill
- Corey Kluber
- Aaron Civale
- Zach Plesac
Red Sox Get: Tim Anderson
White Sox Get: Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, Nick Yorke
Mariners Get: Lucas Giolito, Liam Hendriks
White Sox Get: Matt Brash, Jesse Winker, Penn Murfee, Kyle Lewis, Marco Gonzales, Harry Ford
Another summary post for two trade proposals involving the same team, in this case the White Sox. If their 81-81 record wasn’t a clear enough indication, the SouthSiders are the most painfully average team in the league right now. Some of their underachievement could be attributed to Tony La Russa, yes, but their issues run much deeper than having a dinosaur at manager. There might not be a single team with less depth than Chicago, and even among their roster strengths there is a ton of redundancy. This is just a really poorly built team in need of a mini-blowup. I think these two trades could nicely position the White Sox to be on a brighter path as soon as 2024.
Though he’s become a franchise icon, the White Sox should absolutely trade Anderson. He has minimal long-term value and Chicago, despite having a bad farm system as things stand, has a few solid middle infield prospects who could use live reps immediately. The Red Sox, assuming they let Xander Bogaerts walk and don’t pursue a big ticket free agent to replace him, should be all over Anderson. He might not hit 20 combined homers over the next two seasons but Anderson has the highest batting average in MLB since 2019 (.318) and could realistically bat .330 hitting at the Green Monster. With two cheap seasons of control on his obscenely team-friendly contract, Anderson is the best-case scenario as a bridge shortstop between Bogaerts and uber-prospect Marcelo Mayer. Chicago would receive back three players with maximum team control. Duran, though still a valuable asset, has no future in Boston following poor production in two stints in the majors to go along with a bad attitude. He needs a career restart elsewhere and Chaim Bloom didn’t draft him; it would be a surprise if Duran isn’t traded this offseason, especially with Ceddanne Rafaela supplanting him as Boston’s centerfielder of the future. Trading Nick Yorke would sting for the Red Sox, but they would need to trade at least one of their top kids for a perennial All Star like Anderson. Yorke had an empty 2022 season, but he played through injury and was still one of the youngest players in A+ ball at 20 years old. It was only one year ago that he was garnering comparisons to Alex Bregman, so it would be wise for Chicago to buy low. Tanner Houck has big talent and has already made plenty of MLB hitters look silly, but he’s a tweener starter/reliever and Garrett Whitlock already does that for the Red Sox.
The second trade has the Mariners pushing more chips into the middle of the table, even after their hypothetical signing of Brandon Nimmo and actual trade for Teoscar Hernandez. If the Mariners have any roster holes left, besides arguably 2B, it’s the closer role. Paul Sewald had a fantastic 2022 season for the Mariners, but Seattle is too invested to pretend that his stuff is up to the task of shutting down 9th innings in October – if the ALDS series vs. Houston didn’t expose that already. Hendriks has delivered on exactly what Chicago paid him to do, but there isn’t much point in having an elite closer on a rebuilding team. With 2yr/$29mil remaining on his deal, Hendriks should be the target of aggressive pursuit from better teams without a true closer. Chicago doesn’t need to trade Giolito, but they should. He’s entering his final season under contract and isn’t the type of pitcher that’s given a blank check for an extension. Giolito is better than his 4.90 ERA in 2022, but he’s also probably worse than his 5.2 WAR 2019 season at this stage. The Mariners should view themselves as contenders, even if they share a division with the Astros. Ignoring the impending signings of deGrom, Verlander and Rodon, a starting rotation of Luis Castillo/Robbie Ray/Lucas Giolito/Logan Gilbert/George Kirby would probably be the best in baseball.
I have six players going back to Chicago in return for Hendriks and Giolito, but this isn’t exactly the friend in your fantasy football league who offers you a bunch of crap for your best running back. I’ll spell it out in bullet points:
- Matt Brash would be an excellent get for the White Sox. He was listed as a Top 100 prospect everywhere coming into the 2022 season and cracked the Opening Day roster for the Mariners. He displayed what makes him so special with his 62 strikeouts in 50 innings, but he also had a 5.86 BB/9 rate and quickly fell out of the starting rotation. The Mariners have multiple big arms with control work needed in the minors, so Brash is somewhat expendable for them. Brash and Tanner Houck to go along with Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech would make the White Sox must-watch television for Pitching Ninja.
- I highly doubt the Mariners want to trade Harry Ford – who is their top prospect following the Luis Castillo trade with the Reds – but they’ve gotta crack some eggs. Ford, a 2021 first round pick out of high school who is a catcher in the athletic-style of JT Realmuto, isn’t close to major league ready and Cal Raleigh looks suited to be the Mariners’ long-term answer at catcher. Chicago’s organization is absolutely barren of young catching talent, and Ford would immediately become their first or second best overall prospect following a trade.
- If I had the first overall pick in a fantasy draft of innings-eaters on a bad team, I’d probably take Marco Gonzales. That isn’t meant as a total diss; he’s the opposite of flashy but can fall out of bed and throw 180 innings to a 4.00 ERA. The Mariners aren’t a poor team but they aren’t the Yankees either; they’ll probably want to shed an undesirable contract or two, and Gonzales is owed $19mil across 2023-2024.
- Even if Kyle Lewis’ value has objectively deflated since he won AL Rookie of the Year in the abridged 2020 season, I reject that he has zero value as the above screenshot implies. Even if he’s an injury risk whenever he steps on the diamond and already 27 years old, we didn’t imagine that 2020 season and Lewis followed it up with a 107 wRC+ in a not-so-small sample size of 150 PAs in 2021. He’s a huge talent that could benefit from a change of scenery and a move to a corner outfield spot to help keep him healthy. Seattle chose Taylor Trammell over Lewis on the September 1 call-up date last year; a breakup is coming.
- The Mariners have become one of the better organizations at molding iffy pitching prospects into valuable relievers, including Erik Swanson, who was just the centerpiece of the Teoscar Hernandez trade with Toronto. I fear they might be getting cocky over this budding narrative and could see them moving another bullpen arm like Murfee. Murfee is like Paul Sewald in that it doesn’t look pretty – he sits at 89 MPH with his fastball – but he just gets the job done (2.99 ERA in 64 appearances). Rebuilding teams typically don’t seek relievers as part of trade packages, but Murfee is coming off his rookie season and isn’t even close to arbitration salaries yet.
- Ok, Jesse Winker is a total toss-in. He could be a good platoon DH for the 2023 White Sox, sure, but this is more about him apparently wearing out his welcome in the Seattle clubhouse. Chicago could eat one year of $8mil salary for the other five pieces in this trade.
Here is where I leave the White Sox for the future; is this 2023 team even worse than their current 2023 depth chart?
- Jarren Duran (8)
- Yoan Moncada (5)
- Luis Robert (9)
- Eloy Jimenez (DH)
- Andrew Vaughn (3)
- Yasmani Grandal (2)
- Kyle Lewis (7)
- Lenyn Sosa (4) (Chicago’s No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline)
- Jose Rodriguez (6) (Chicago’s No. 7 prospect per MLB Pipeline)
- Dylan Cease
- Lance Lynn
- Marco Gonzales
- Michael Kopech
- Matt Brash
- Tanner Houck
Dodgers Get: Bryan Reynolds
Pirates Get: Andy Pages, Gavin Stone, Jorbit Vivas
It’s been a nauseating 3+ years of fan bases around the country posting low-ball trade ideas for Bryan Reynolds, but I think the time has finally come for Pittsburgh to trade their star outfielder. I generally like how the Pirates are going about their rebuild in that they aren’t cutting corners, but it’s definitely coming along slowly. I’m sure the Pirates’ brass wants to have Reynolds in black-and-yellow once the team starts winning again, but he’s starting to get pricey and they probably would have agreed on an extension by now if there was common ground between the team and Reynolds. Getting back three prospects for Reynolds, including two blue-chip and MLB-ready ones in Pages and Stone, would go a long way in speeding up the rebuild. Pages will strike out a ton at the MLB level but has the bat to drill 30+ homers annually and a firehose of a right arm; he could be the Pirates’ starting rightfielder tomorrow. Stone was arguably the best pitcher in the minor leagues in 2022; he made 6+ starts in A+, AA and AAA and posted respective ERAs of 1.44, 1.60 and 1.16. He’s bordering on too-good-to-trade status, but the Dodgers cannot go another round of leading the league in regular season wins and ranked prospects with no championship to show for it. (I know, I know…2020.) Assuming that Diego Cartaya is off-limits, Pittsburgh would reasonably ask for one of Stone or Bobby Miller in return for Reynolds, and I’d be curious to see who LA would part with in that scenario. I think it would be Stone, who has clearly outperformed Miller but is a 170-pound 5th round draft pick, while Miller is a 6’5”, 220-pound first rounder.
Like I just said, the Dodgers need to be more aggressive in building a world-beating team. Cody Bellinger still does some things well despite falling off a cliff and Trayce Thompson is a good comeback story who posted wild reverse splits and destroyed right-handed pitching in 2022, but they aren’t good enough to pencil into the Dodgers’ starting outfield next to Mookie Betts. Reynolds is a switch-hitter in his prime who’s an elite everyday leftfielder in waiting and can probably hold his own for another season or two in centerfield as well. The sample size has grown too large for Reynolds; his career slash line of .281/.361/.481 isn’t a fluke. He’s a stud.
And by the way, the Dodgers would still have a plethora of great prospects following this trade.
Athletics Get: Nolan Gorman, Paul DeJong, Andre Pallante, Tink Hence
Cardinals Get: Sean Murphy
This framework isn’t too dissimilar to the Dodgers/Pirates framework above involving Bryan Reynolds, as Sean Murphy is an All Star caliber player in the arbitration years of his contract on one of the cheapest teams in the league. A key difference that needs to be stated though is that the Pirates are rebuilding in a (mostly) commendable way while the Athletics are nothing short of shameful. They will field one of the worst rosters in recent baseball history next season to the tune of around $30mil. Yes, their total team payroll will be about what 5+ players are guaranteed annually by other teams in free agency in the weeks ahead. That number will drop too once Oakland inevitably trades Murphy and his $4mil salary. The sad thing is, within the perspective of Oakland’s operations, they absolutely should trade Murphy this offseason. He comes along with three years of team control and posted a 122 wRC+ in 2022 – which is WAY higher than just 22% above average for offensive production from a catcher. He’s also a Gold Glove winner who should be in his prime and brings along the leadership and toughness that old-school teams crave from their starting catcher.
The Cardinals have a gaping hole at catcher and will be all over Murphy, and like the Dodgers they have more than enough young talent at their disposal. Fortunately for them the A’s need everything, though Jordan Walker will be off-limits and I suspect that Masyn Winn has reached that territory too (even if they sign a free agent shortstop like I predicted). I have Nolan Gorman as the centerpiece in this trade, who just last year debuted as a Top 25 prospect in the game and hit 14 homers in 89 games for the Cardinals. It’s unclear where he’ll end up defensively though; he was horrendous at 2B for the Cards so the answer is probably 3B, which Nolan Arenado just agreed to occupy for five more years. He’d likely be a platoon DH for the 2023 Cardinals, which not only would be a bad use of resources but fellow prospect Alec Burleson might be even better suited to own that role. Tink Hence was a 3rd round pick but absolutely eviscerated Single-A pitching as a 19 year old, and Andre Pallante is exactly the type of No. 6 starter with flashes of MLB production and plenty of cheap control that the A’s always seem to target in trades. Salary dumping usually sucks but it’s minor in the case of DeJong and the Cardinals should get him out of there. Oakland can manage to pay him $11mil, start him at shortstop and more importantly point to him when they face criticism for their anemic payroll.
If St. Louis could trade for Murphy and sign Dansby Swanson like I suggest, my money would on them as the best group of position players in the league. Just look at this lineup, which could also win 5+ Gold Gloves:
- Lars Nootbar (9)
- Dansby Swanson (6)
- Nolan Arenado (5)
- Paul Goldschmidt (3)
- Juan Yepez/Alec Burleson (DH)
- Sean Murphy (2)
- Tyler O’Neill (7)
- Dylan Carlson (8)
- Tommy Edman (4)
Marlins Get: Austin Hays, Jordan Westburg
Orioles Get: Pablo Lopez
The key players in the above trades hover in between 25-50% likely to get traded for the most part, but Lopez is more in the 80-90% range. Given that Miami very publicly dangled him at the last trade deadline, this doesn’t qualify as a bold prediction. It’s also a good idea for the Marlins, and I say that as a fan of Lopez. His trade value is just about at the highest point it’ll probably ever be. (I think that 38.7 number per BaseballTradeValues.com is a bit inflated, hence the gap is Total Value.) 2022 was his first season staying healthy from wire-to-wire and his metrics basically remained in line across the board. He’s a quality No. 2 starter that’s out there for the taking, and Baltimore can definitely use some more front-line pitching.
Miami wasn’t exactly expected to contend in 2022 but their 69-93 record was pretty inexcusable, to the point that the sand is probably starting to fall in the hour glass for Kim Ng. They are in dire need of more offense and, considering that the Marlins whiffed on their free agent additions of Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler last year, trading is the best path toward achieving that goal. The Orioles boast an embarrassment of riches with hitting prospects, having a surplus of MLB-ready guys in both the infield and the outfield. Hays isn’t one of those prospects but trading him would free up a spot for Kyle Stowers. Hays isn’t an All Star but he’s a surefire positive impact player in leftfield; Miami needs more players like that and he’d be a good get for them. The Marlins could take advantage of the blockers the Orioles have around the diamond by prying away Westburg, who could start at third base on Opening Day for Miami. Westburg batted .273/.361/.508 in a full season at Triple-A, but he surely isn’t getting reps over Gunnar Henderson and Joey Ortiz is the same age as Westburg and probably the better shortstop prospect. (I also believe the Orioles are higher on Jorge Mateo than his perceived value.)
Braves Get: Jake McCarthy, Madison Bumgarner
Diamondbacks Get: Ian Anderson, Marcell Ozuna, Freddy Tarnok
Madison Bumgarner and Marcell Ozuna, beyond both being among the least popular players in the sport, are the owners of two of the worst contracts in the sport as well. I’ll still kick it off with them given their notoriety, but also it’s worth noting that their inclusion isn’t for humor but because it would actually make a lot of sense for the Braves and D-Backs to flip them for one another. They have literally identical remaining terms on their contracts at 2yr/$37mil, and the Braves would benefit more from a veteran depth arm at the back of their staff while the Snakes are openly searching for a right-handed power bat. Don’t get me wrong; MadBum and Ozuna are both bad players at these points of their careers. In 2022, Bumgarner had a 4.88 ERA with even worse underlying metrics and Ozuna is a DH only who batted .226 with a .697 OPS. They are both washed but not quite in DFA territory, and perhaps each of them is good for a last gasp season with Bumgarner pitching in the South for a better team and Ozuna getting somewhat of a fresh start after his tumultuous last couple of years.
Enough of those losers, though! Let’s get to the meat of this trade. If there is a more under-the-radar young ballplayer than Jake McCarthy in the majors, then I’m not sure who he is. In his 2022 rookie season, McCarthy batted .283/.342/.427 from the left side of the plate and already strikes out at a below average clip. He isn’t an exit velocity king like some other wunderkinds around the league, but McCarthy has a quick bat and is truly one of the fastest players in the game; his sprint speed is in Trea Turner territory. So then, why would Arizona, a team on the come-up, trade him? They have the enviable problem of too much young talent in the outfield at the major league level, with superstar-in-waiting Corbin Carroll and defensive phenom Daulton Varsho occupying two spots. I suppose the Diamondbacks could pick McCarthy over Alek Thomas, who was demoted to Triple-A after falling short of McCarthy’s production, but Thomas is three years younger and was a much more highly regarded prospect. McCarthy has experience playing leftfield and is under team control through 2028, so yes the Braves in this outcome would basically be Thanos adding another Infinity Stone to their gauntlet.
Freddy Tarnok isn’t exactly a throw-in, but the main piece going back to Arizona in this trade is Ian Anderson. Following the 2020 season, I’m not sure if there was a single young pitcher that you’d pick to build your rotation of the future around before Anderson. His changeup was dancing from the moment he hit the mound and he made 4 dominant postseason starts at 22 years old. But, to put it bluntly, Anderson has sucked since then. His strikeouts are down while his walks are up, all culminating in an ugly 5.00 ERA in 22 starts last season. Atlanta has absurd pitching depth; they currently have EIGHT starting pitchers on their 40-man roster in the minor leagues. That includes Anderson (and Tarnok), who I’m sure the Braves would hate to sell low on but also would be tough for them to justify still in the rotation over their five better options. It would be a worthwhile reclamation project for Arizona, who just pulled off a similar feat with Zac Gallen. Between this trade prediction and my call for them to sign Taijuan Walker, that would give Arizona a front four of Gallen/Walker/Anderson/Merrill Kelly. Not bad!
Mets Get: German Marquez, CJ Cron
Rockies Get: Mark Vientos, James McCann, Luis Rodriguez, Cash
Across this piece and my free agency piece, the teams that I haven’t predicted any immediate-impact acquisitions for are either cheap (Oakland, Cincinnati) or at the beginning of a major rebuild (Detroit, Kansas City). And then there are the Rockies, easily the most confounding and unpredictable team in the league. I almost wouldn’t believe this if I didn’t do the math myself but the Rockies have 124 million dollars in guaranteed money on the books for 2023. This team, with largely the same roster, went 68-94 last season. I’m not in the business of trying to save MLB owners money, but Colorado has no reason to pay CJ Cron and German Marquez a combined $23mil for 2023 just to finish 40 games behind the Dodgers. Cron was a revelation for the Rockies with 57 homers across 2021-2022 but they should sell him for value while they can. Marquez, on the other hand, has lost some shine recently after ERAs of 4.40 and 5.00 over 180 innings in each of the last two seasons. He’s still throwing hard though and his stuff hasn’t really changed; batters have just been teeing off on his fastballs lately. With an affordable $16mil club option for 2024, Marquez is a good buy-low candidate for a team that will simplify his approach, lean more on his great curveball and, most importantly, just get him the hell out of Coors Field (6.70 home ERA, 3.43 road ERA in 2022).
Mark Vientos is a good, borderline Top 100 prospect who showed off some of the best power in the minors in 2022 (24 homers in 101 Triple-A games). He would hit some moonshots playing in Denver, but playing in Queens he’s pretty much a 22 year old DH who won’t ever get first base reps with Pete Alonso there or third base reps with Brett Baty as the superior defensive (and overall) prospect. Vientos is ultimately disposable for the Mets and the type of prospect that Colorado should be vulturing as rosters are trimmed around the league. James McCann’s contract isn’t burning a hole in the Mets’ wallet with Steve Cohen signing the checks but it’s still hurting the team just by nature of a wasted roster spot. They need to get him off the team, even if it means eating half of his remaining $20mil like I included in this trade. The ironic inclusion of McCann + Cash is that the Rockies signing him on a 2yr/$10mil deal is the exact type of head-scratching deal that we’ve come to expect of the modern Rockies.
With Marquez and Cron in the fold – on top of my predicted free agent signings – this is where it would leave the Mets:
- Jeff McNeil (4)
- Starling Marte (8)
- Francisco Lindor (6)
- Pete Alonso (3)
- CJ Cron/Dan Vogelbach (DH)
- Mitch Haniger (9)
- Brett Baty (5)
- Mark Canha (7)
- Tomas Nido (2) (Keeping it warm for Francisco Alvarez…)
- Max Scherzer
- Chris Bassitt
- Carlos Carrasco
- German Marquez
- David Peterson
- Tylor Megill
Brewers Get: Josh Donaldson, Kyle Higashioka, Trey Sweeney, Cash
Yankees Get: Christian Yelich, Devin Williams, Tyrone Taylor, Cash
Twins Get: Domingo German, Lucas Luetge
Yankees Get: Max Kepler
Royals Get: Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial
Yankees Get: Hunter Dozier, Michael A. Taylor
The nerve and unabashed bias to conclude this with three different Yankees trades! First things first in response to that: YUP, write your own blog if you want something else. Kidding, sorta, but I do think the Yankees are objectively one of the more intriguing teams of this offseason. They are particularly intriguing as traders, given that they made one big move last offseason and that was the trade for Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa from Minnesota that backfired rather spectacularly. Speaking of Donaldson, the first of these three Yankees trades involves the team offloading his stench. I went into more depth on the bones of this trade in my Yankees offseason piece, though since then I did remove Clarke Schmidt from the Yankees side and Luis Urias from the Brewers and instead have Milwaukee including Tyrone Taylor and more cash owed for Yelich. With Yelich’s future payment split evenly between New York and Milwaukee, the Yankees would be acquiring Yelich on a 6yr/$78mil deal. For comparison, I predicted Brandon Nimmo to receive a 6yr/$120mil deal and Andrew Benintendi to land a 6r/$90mil deal in my free agency piece. The main thing I want to elaborate on here in support of this trade though is why Milwaukee, at their market size, should be so desperate to get Yelich off their books. For starters, the Brewers – or perhaps only Arizona instead – have the best collection of outfield prospects in baseball. Yelich might not even be one of their best options out there by 2024. But more than that, shedding even half of his contract would be a titanic weight off the chest of the new Brewers’ regime as they actively attempt to reset without blowing everything up this offseason. Consider this math:
Path 1: $156mil (Yelich 2023-2028) + $30mil (Corbin Burnes 2023-2024) = $186mil
Path 2: $78mil (Yelich to NYY) + $21mil (Donaldson 2023) + $87mil (4yr/$87mil deal for Corbin Burnes 2023-2026) = $186mil
These paths include some rough estimates, but the logic holds that Milwaukee could lock down Burnes’ Ages 30-31 seasons opposed to losing those to free agency or have Yelich’s Ages 31-36 seasons under contract instead.
Moving on, Domingo German and Lucas Luetge are decent pitchers who are on the roster bubble for the Yankees but would definitely crack Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. The Twins have low-key put together another beast of a starting lineup and Max Kepler probably isn’t part of the best version of that lineup anymore. Kepler is one of the more polarizing players in the game, with up-and-down base-level production matched by some underlying data that says he’s underrated and unlucky (exit velocity) and other underlying data that says he isn’t much as a hitter (bigly negative vs. four-seam fastballs). It’ll be unfair to anyone if the Yankees have to ask him to fill Aaron Judge’s cleats, but Kepler is an extremely athletic player with great plate discipline, good pull power from the left side of the plate and two more years remaining on his team-friendly contract. Almost regardless of whether Judge returns to New York, the Yankees should call Minnesota about Kepler; it’s a great match.
Last and probably the least, this trade is a two-way salary dump. I don’t mean to pile on Aaron Hicks more than the Yankees community already does; my grander point here is aimed more at the Yankees than Hicks himself. Teams must carry 13 hitters by current roster rules: the 9 starters, a backup catcher and the utility man are a non-negotiable set of 11. That leaves two true bench spots and the Yankees in recent years have completely wasted that flexibility, with a good deal of that waste coming from Hicks. He isn’t a useless player yet but the Yankees need to prioritize players with plus tools for bench openings, not just players who are adequate backups at occupied positions. Case in point: Hunter Dozier is not a good player. He’s quite bad, in fact; Dozier is literally lapping the field in negative WAR (-2.0) among qualified hitters over the last two seasons. But still, Dozier has real power. His contract isn’t pretty either with 2yr/$18mil left on it, but there aren’t many options for the Yankees to choose from if they want to dump Hicks without paying part of his deal down. As a regular for a completely rebuilding Royals team, Hicks is certainly a better option for KC than Dozier. But for a competing Yankees team in need of bench upgrades, Dozier is a better option for NYY than Hicks.
Quickly to cap it off, the Royals get Estevan Florial and his rookie deal from the Yankees’ Quadruple-A ranks. In return, the Yankees get one year of Michael A. Taylor for $4.5mil. I totally disagree that he’s a negative value player like that screenshot implies; Taylor isn’t great but he’s an ok hitter who’s lights out with the glove in centerfield. He’d become one of the better backup CF options in the game on the Yankees. Below is an amended version of a hopeful Opening Day picture for the Yankees:
- Christian Yelich (7)
- DJ LeMahieu (5)
- Anthony Rizzo (3)
- Giancarlo Stanton (DH)
- Gleyber Torres (4)
- Harrison Bader (8)
- Max Kepler (9)
- Oswald Peraza (6)
- Jose Trevino (2)
- Gerrit Cole
- Jacob deGrom
- Luis Severino
- Nestor Cortes
- Frankie Montas
- Clarke Schmidt
Thanks for reading! Follow on Twitter @Real_Peej